Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflections on motherhood May 7, 2021

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My mom saved everything, including this Mother’s Day card I made for her in elementary school. I cut a flower from a seed catalog to create the front of this card. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

IT’S EASY TO IDEALIZE motherhood. To paint a portrait of an infinitely loving and nurturing mother. Always calm. Always kind. Always putting her children first.

But the reality is that being a mom does not mean being perfect. No one is. Perfect, that is.

So this Mother’s Day, I honor all those women who are moms. Not some idealistic version of a perfect mother. But rather a mother who does her best to embrace motherhood and love those entrusted to her care.

My granddaughter. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2019.

As the mother of three now grown adult children and two beautiful grandchildren, I have a little experience in the mothering department. That doesn’t make me an expert. It just lends more authenticity to my words, to my efforts to give my children roots and wings.

I love my three. Two daughters born 21 months apart. And then the son born seven years and 364 days after my eldest. Yes, she celebrated her birthday in the hospital with her newborn brother.

As a stay-at-home mom, I found raising kids both challenging and rewarding. I expect most moms would say that. Tantrums and sibling rivalry and strong-willed children can test any mother’s patience. But then there were the moments of children snuggled next to me or on my lap while I read books. First, simple Little Golden Book storybooks. Then the Little House series. The Betsy-Tacy series. And more.

Busted in October of 1988 sneaking cookies and “hiding” in the corner of the kitchen to eat them. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And the moments of delight. Like the morning I caught my daughters eating just-baked chocolate chip cookies in a corner of the kitchen…after I’d told them to wait until after lunch for a treat. My oldest daughter pulled a chair to the counter and grabbed two cookies for herself and her sister. I secretly admired her determination. And her looking out for her sister.

I wanted to raise children to think creatively, to forge their own paths. To care about others. And they did. When the eldest, during her freshman year of college, informed us that she was going on a mission trip to Paraguay, I asked, “Where is Paraguay?” And soon the second daughter followed, journeying to New Orleans to help with clean-up after Hurricane Katrina. Twice. Then, after college, she moved to Argentina for six months.

One of my all-time favorite photos of my son at age 5. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The son, too, traveled, to attend college and work in Boston for five years. I disliked having him so far from Minnesota. But I respected his choice and my need to let go. Later, he would travel to a professional conference in Japan and then to Europe.

Certainly, there have been challenges through the years. Difficult times. Plenty of tears and angst and worry. The morning my then 12-year-old son was struck by a car while crossing the street to his school bus stop ranks as an especially terrifying moment. That hit-and-run occurred just days before Mother’s Day 2006. Thankfully, he received only minor injuries. Yet, it was a horrible experience. My heart hurts for all mothers who have lost children.

Me and my mom in December 2017. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Although my kids are long-gone from home, my love and care for them remains as strong as ever. I want the best for them. Happiness. Joy. Purpose. To love and be loved. I would move mountains for them, as cliché as that sounds. I expect my mom felt the same.

My mother, Arlene, and me.

To all the moms out there, including my mom and my eldest (the mother of my grandchildren), Happy Mother’s Day! You are valued, loved, cherished and appreciated.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mother’s Day 2020 from southern Minnesota May 8, 2020

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Me with my mom during a January visit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2020 by Randy Helbling.

 

I STOOD BEFORE THE CARD RACK at the dollar store, pink cotton print mask covering my face, eyes scanning the choices before me. I filtered through a few Mother’s Day cards before choosing one for my eldest daughter and one for my mom.

It was an emotional moment for me as I selected the card to send to my mom, who lives in a senior care center 120 miles away in southwestern Minnesota. I last saw her on March 7, the weekend before Parkview closed to visitors to protect them from COVID-19.

Mom is on hospice, which makes a difficult situation even more emotionally challenging. How do you work through the guilt of not being there for your mom when she most needs family? How? The intellectual part of me understands the closure. The “I love my mom” side does not.

So I stood there, in front of that display rack of flowery cards with sweet messages, and considered that this could be the last time I would buy a Mother’s Day card for Mom. I wanted to rip off that mask and plop down on the floor and cry away my pain in heart-wrenching sobs. Because that’s how I felt. Overcome with sadness.

But, instead, I clutched my two cards and walked to the check-out lane, strips of orange tape marking social distancing lines on the worn carpet. I waited while the cashier scanned the biggest pile of merchandise I’ve ever seen a shopper purchase at a dollar store. I tried to be patient and wait my turn while an unmasked young woman edged closer to me, closer than my comfort level. It didn’t help that I’d just heard someone coughing repeatedly minutes earlier.

I recognize my heightened awareness created by COVID-19. I recognize, too, my heightened emotions. I considered for a moment just leaving the cards and walking out of the store. But I wanted, needed, to get the card for Mom without another visit to another store and more possible virus exposure.

So I refocused, wondering about that heap of merchandise the masked woman ahead of me was buying. Teacher, I thought to myself, then asked, “You must be buying for a bunch of kids?” Her answer surprised me. She was not. The goods were rewards for potty training. I nearly laughed aloud. Not because of the concept. But because of the sheer volume of rewards purchased for a preschooler who might just be smart enough to manipulate Mom.

Humor got me through that check-out line and out the door with a card for my mom and another for my daughter. Memories will carry me through this Mother’s Day as I think of Mom. Still here on this earth, yet so far away.

To all of you who have lost your moms, I am sorry. To those of you who still have your moms, cherish them. And to those of you who are mothers, like me, Happy Mother’s Day!

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Especially grateful this Mother’s Day May 12, 2017

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Me with my mom in her assisted living room in 2014. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo by Randy Helbling.

 

THERE WAS A THURSDAY about two months ago when fear gripped my heart. Our mother, my middle brother texted, was being rushed via ambulance to the hospital and might not survive.

I exited his message, scrolled to my favorites in my contacts and pressed the green phone icon that would link me to my husband. “You need to come home now,” I ordered as I fought to suppress my emotions. He needed to finish a job and then would be on his way.

As I threw clothing into a suitcase—uncertain whether we would be staying overnight—I worried that we might not reach the hospital in time. We had a two-hour drive to Redwood Falls.

 

I printed this message inside a handmade Mother’s Day card in elementary school.

 

We arrived to find Mom settling into a room after her transfer from the ER. That afternoon I said my goodbyes to a mother in such obvious physical discomfort and distress that she wanted to die. And I was OK with that. I couldn’t bear to watch her struggling to breathe.

 

The only photo I have of my mom holding me. My dad is holding my brother Doug.

 

Many hours later, I hugged Mom for what I thought would be the last time and left her room in tears. In the hallway, I attempted to compose myself before reconnecting with family in the downstairs waiting room. As we left, the next family members rotated in.

Once I’d expelled that initial grief, I didn’t cry. I managed, an hour later, to stand before an audience in a Mankato art gallery and read my prize-winning poem about detasseling corn. I find more and more in difficult situations that I am able to establish an emotional roadblock. Perhaps that’s inner strength. Or denial. Or self-preservation.

I fully expected that we would be heading back west in a few days with black mourning clothes packed. But once again, as she has multiple times in her nearly 85 years, my mom surprised us all by recovering from a major health crisis. Her condition improved overnight and days later she was released back home to a care center.

I am grateful this Mother’s Day to still have my mother on this earth. I am grateful, too, to be the mother of three and the grandmother of one.

 

My mom saved everything, including this Mother’s Day card I made for her in elementary school. I cut a flower from a seed catalog to create the front of this card.

 

If your mother is still living, express your love to her via a visit, a phone call and/or a card. If your mother has passed, I hope, rather than grieve, you will remember her with love.

And someone, please remind my son that Sunday is Mother’s Day.

 

TELL ME: How do you honor the women in your life who are mothers on Mother’s Day?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mother’s Day thoughts May 8, 2011

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My oldest daughter and my son pose after the wedding yesterday.

IF YOU ARE A MOM, are you having a good, maybe even great, Mother’s Day?

Mine has been low-key given my family returned a few hours ago from traveling out-of-town to attend our nephew’s wedding on Saturday.

When we dropped our eldest off at her south Minneapolis apartment this afternoon, she asked if the guys had anything planned for me. I accepted her greeting card, promise of a hanging flower basket and told her I didn’t think so.

They are busy.

The husband is napping in the recliner. I should add here that I suggested he take a nap. He deserves to rest after all the long hours he’s been putting in at work lately.

The teenaged son is doing homework and, I think, studying for an Advanced Placement physics test tomorrow. He remembered today was Mother’s Day only after Mother’s Day wishes were exchanged among family members at the hotel this morning.

The second daughter called as our family was driving into Minneapolis. Her timing was perfect, diverting my attention from all the crazy drivers. However, she did cause me to miss some photo ops.

My other daughter.

That all said, my Mother’s Day has been uneventful and not particularly memorable.

But that’s OK. I’ve been with two of my three children and spoken with the third.

In a few hours, I’ll call my mom and wish her a “Happy Mother’s Day.”

If she’s like me, she will appreciate more than any card or gift, the call telling her “I love you.”

Aren’t those the words that really matter the most to mothers on Mother’s Day, and any day?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling